Yes, we all take dumb and inadvisable political positions in our college years.
There’s a difference between inadvisable and indefensible, though — and during her time at the University of California at Berkeley in 2002, the incoming Joe Biden deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs found herself on the wrong side of that fence.
The would-be staffer, Reema Dodin, a Palestinian-American, is best known for her work with Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, having served as his deputy chief of staff and floor director since 2011.
According to USA Today, the pick was made in part to help Biden negotiate with Congress.
“The American people are eager for our Administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” the presumptive president-elect said in a Nov. 22 statement.
“In a Biden administration, we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”
Excited that my Floor Director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden’s Leg Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, & has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new President needs to help him in the Senate. https://t.co/MTvm7M7jxd
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) November 24, 2020
It sounded fantastic, but the issues with the pick became apparent quickly when Dodin’s time as a campus activist was re-examined.
That Dodin was a Palestinian activist is unremarkable. However, the first thing worth noting is that her time at Berkeley coincided with the second Palestinian intifada, the 2000 to 2005 period in which over 1,000 Israelis were killed and terror attacks became a facet of daily life in the Jewish state — not exactly the most defensible period in Palestinian history.
The second thing worth noting is that she didn’t do a particularly good job defending it, even at that.
Dodin’s time at Berkeley was during a period where social media, such as it was, consisted of Friendster and AOL. This was felicitous for her, considering the only surviving account of an April 24, 2002, speech to the United Methodist Church in Lodi, California, doesn’t even use direct quotes, much less video clips.
Instead, the Lodi News-Sentinel said the speech, given before about 40 people at the height of the second intifada, involved Dodin describing “a conflict that began in 1948 with the decolonization of the Middle East, and explained a political and military struggle that has lasted for the half-century since, leading to many violent outbursts, including the battles being waged in Israel today.”
“She described an Israel where Palestinians have lost hope and are getting desperate,” the News-Sentinel wrote.
“The suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people, Dodin said.”
One quote from Dodin pulled from an April 2001 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, an alternative newsweekly, came from a campus demonstration where 32 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested: “They say they want peace, but it’s a peace based on their rules.”
Those rules, according to the Daily Planet, didn’t “include a full Palestinian state that meets Palestinian demands” — something one can extrapolate troubling assumptions from, even though it’s not a direct quote. Again troubling: Demonstrators at the rally compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
Dodin also described Palestine as “a place where water is so scarce that the Israeli government will cut off the supply to coerce the Palestinian population,” according to the Lodi News.
In a statement seemingly issued to every news outlet that asked for one, Biden’s people assured the media that Dodin had changed.
“Reema is the first to tell you she has grown from her youth in her approach to pushing for change, but her core values of fighting to expand opportunity to building a stronger middle class remain her driving force,” an official with the Biden-Harris team told The Jerusalem Post on Nov. 25.
“She harnessed her activism into action, becoming a well-respected and trusted leader in the U.S. Senate.”
There’s an irony in that Dodin wasn’t “the first to tell you she has grown from her youth in her approach to pushing for change”; Biden’s people were. Dodin has a locked Twitter account and hasn’t said anything — but rest assured there were plenty of others willing to assure us this was nothing more than a smear campaign.
This is a baseless smear. Reema Dodin is a tireless public servant who will work to restore the soul of our nation in the Biden White House.
Reema did not justify suicide bombers and I know that she’s committed to combating hatred in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism. https://t.co/3Yt9z2pYi4
— Halie Soifer (@HalieSoifer) November 24, 2020
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, tweeted that “Reema Dodin is a tireless public servant who will work to restore the soul of our nation in the Biden White House.
“Reema did not justify suicide bombers and I know that she’s committed to combating hatred in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism,” she added.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, ostensibly called the concerns racist.
Smearing Reema Dodin is part of greater effort to silence and delegitimize anyone who at some point in their life voiced strong criticism of Israel or engaged in activism in support of Palestinian human rights. It is particularly troubling when such smears target women of color. https://t.co/NIPUVeIdnu
— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) November 25, 2020
Bringing up that Dodin defended suicide bombers when she was in college “is part of greater effort to silence and delegitimize anyone who at some point in their life voiced strong criticism of Israel or engaged in activism in support of Palestinian human rights,” Dakwar tweeted. “It is particularly troubling when such smears target women of color.”
New York Times opinion writer Wajahat Ali, meanwhile, said “bad-faith actors and hatemongers, like Pam Geller, are taking a 20-year-old quote out of context to attack Reema Dodin, part of Biden’s White House team, who’s a respected professional with a brilliant, sterling career. Her crime? Being Muslim [and] Palestinian.”
And like clockwork, bad-faith actors and hatemongers, like Pam Geller, are taking a 20-year-old quote out of context to attack Reema Dodin, part of Biden’s White House team, who’s a respected professional with a brilliant, sterling career. Her crime? Being Muslim & Palestinian 1/ pic.twitter.com/wGLNYE36Fu
— Wajahat “Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic” Ali (@WajahatAli) November 24, 2020
No, her “crime” was defending Palestinian suicide bombers. As for “bad-faith actors,” consider that Ali picked out Geller, an activist generally considered marginalized even on the outer reaches of the fringe right, as a representative slice of those attacking Dodin.
In the end, we got a Biden official who said “Reema is the first to tell you she has grown from her youth.” She actually told us nothing, and having “grown from your youth” isn’t repudiating any apologia for terrorists you might have made at the time. An inability to clear that lowest of low bars is a red flag.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.